Following in line with other government officials in the Houston area and beyond, Fort Bend County Judge KP George announced updated community guidelines Monday night aimed at slowing the spread of COVID-19 as the region prepares for an increase in cases of the upper-respiratory disease caused by the new strain of coronavirus.
Effective Tuesday, county officials “strongly discourage” any gatherings of 10 or more people, including at places of worship. Employers are encouraged to take steps to limit close contact between workers, such as maximizing telecommuting and staggering the start and end times of shifts.
George also has recommended that all bars and clubs suspend service or at least reduce their hours and capacity “to decrease the number of people in a space at one time” and to allow for increased cleaning and disinfecting of commonly touched surfaces.
He also recommended that restaurants focus on delivery, takeout and drive-through services instead of sit-down dining. If restaurants do not follow that recommendation, they are encouraged to decrease seating capacity to 50 percent to allow for social distancing and to utilize electronic payments methods instead of handling cash and coins. Citizens are asked to go to restaurants in groups no larger than six.
“This situation requires all of us, including the young and healthy, to become more disciplined and vigilant,” the county said in outlining its updated guidelines. “We understand that these additional guidelines will impact day-to-day life, but COVID-19 is not the common cold. Each of us must make personal sacrifices if our community is going to remain healthy and intact.”
The guidelines are effective through April 1 or until otherwise noted.
For now, at least, Fort Bend County is taking a softer stance on bars and restaurants than neighboring Harris County and the City of Houston, which earlier Monday ordered that all bars and clubs be closed for at least 15 days beginning Tuesday. All Harris County restaurants are restricted to delivery, drive-through and takeout services during that time.
There already had been widespread school closures in the Houston area, which has had a total of about 30 COVID-19 cases, according to local officials. Fort Bend County Health & Human Services has reported nine cases.
According to the World Health Organization, which last week declared the outbreak a pandemic, there are more than 168,000 confirmed COVID-19 cases in 148 different countries, including nearly 1,700 cases in the United States. The disease has led to more than 6,600 deaths worldwide, with the elderly and those with underlying health conditions at the highest risk for serious complications.
“That is why we are asking the public, businesses, faith institutions, and residents of all ages to help us carry out even stronger preventative measures to protect our frontline emergency and medical personnel and those at higher risk of becoming seriously ill from COVID-19,” the county said.
For a complete list of the updated community guidelines for Fort Bend County, visit https://www.fbchealth.org/updated-fort-bend-county-community-guidelines-for-covid-19/.